I'm still an opera review in arrears (Massenet's Manon at Rome's Teatro dell'Opera) but have mysteriously contracted consumption, or at least an illness which prevents me from being able to think clearly or having the desire to do anything, really. However, to cheer myself up, forthwith some happy reminiscences. One might think that a trek of several hundreds of miles through the farms and villages of northern Spain might not be the most likely place to meet opera-lovers. And yet... I did! Pictured above is the courtyard of a pilgrim hostel in the tiny town of Rabanal del Camino. On this day of walking, I was a bit injured, so lagged behind and ended up falling in step with Claudine, a retired French nurse with whom I ended up discussing life, death, botany... and opera! In her retirement, she is taking Greek and singing lessons (impressive!) So we sang together, a French pilgrim song she taught me, and then (with mixed success on remembering the words, but with gusto!) the Habanera and Seguidille. We also discussed how much we like Cecilia Bartoli, of whom I attach a video because one can never have too much Cecilia Bartoli.
Nor was my walk with Claudine the last operatic experience of this day! I ended up conversing with two Frenchmen in the hostel, together with another student who, like me, spoke imperfect French. Discussing the topography of the camino, we were all trying to figure out how to translate une haie. Copse or hedgerow? I voted for hedgerow, based on Werther's "Il n'est pas une haie..." You know Massenet's Werther? one of the Frenchmen asked; following my gleeful affirmation, he said, "You know, I actually got to see that live this year in Paris." "Oh how nice..." I said, and then the ball dropped. "Wait. Not... not the Werther with Plasson and Kaufmann and Koch and..." "Yes!" Then, I have to confess, I actually clapped my hands to my mouth and exclaimed mon dieu in tones of hushed reverence, and then he told me all about it using adjectives like incroyable. Since he confessed that "Je suis allé pour Kaufmann," I shared tales of Tosca and Carmen (he had gone to see the latter in the cinema.) And then we discussed French music and it turned out that he collects libretti and has Messiaen's signature from going to the world premiere of "Saint François d'Assise."
So, those are my latest tales from the wondrous world of opera-loving. This has been and continues to be one of my favorite things in loving and learning opera: being welcomed by generations of people who are willing (nay, eager!) to share tales of their unique experiences, and offer personal perspectives on the personalities, works, and history of this mad and glorious art. There are of course some who Instruct Me About Truths in Opera Because They Are All-Wise In Same, but many many more who simply rejoice in sharing enthusiasm and from whose longer experience and wider knowledge I benefit. And I am filled with joy.